One October night In 1938 Orson Welles famously fooled radio listeners into believing that the United States was under attack from martians. New Zealand’s War of the Worlds moment arguably came in 1995, when directors Costa Botes and Peter Jackson unleashed moviemaker Colin McKenzie on an audience of unsuspecting patriots. Forgotten Silver joined a sly tradition of on screen Kiwi leg-pulling: from turkeys in gumboots and John Clarke as a rock star, to fence-playing farmer musicians, phallic molluscs and Māori porn stars.
An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary, unbelievable life of pioneer Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? The first clue that none of this story is true is that the film begins (the opening 10 minutes is excerpted here) with Peter Jackson leading the viewer down a garden path. Much that is absurd and unlikely follows, leading to a curiously emotional climax. The screening of Forgotten Silver memorably stirred up NZ audiences, and it screened at international film festivals such as Cannes and Venice, where it won a special critics' prize.
Kiwi telly showed it could do sly as well as it could show the shearing of a sheep when, in a 1968 Wellington edition of regional news show Town and Around, reporter Erin Sinclair investigated an innovative farmer whose turkeys were shod in gumboots. The legendary hoax apparently fooled two executives from Skellerup who flew to Whanganui to secure a contract to manufacture the boots' lining. The wool-pulling is often wrongly remembered as a Country Calendar spoof — but that show’s first hoodwinker (a fence-plucking musical farmer) was nearly a decade away.
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
The airport interview with the visiting overseas celebrity was very much a staple of 70s New Zealand TV — but in this encounter the location looks suspiciously like NZBC's Avalon studios, and rock star Hiram W Violent bears more than a passing resemblance to John Clarke (of Fred Dagg fame). The wardrobe department has had a thorough ransacking and the question of Hiram's ability with the guitar remains thankfully moot. The interviewer is original Grunt Machine presenter and actor/musician Andy Anderson (who later starred in Gloss and The Sullivans).
Jeremy Wells brings Kenneth Cumberland-seque authority to this 'alternative' version of Kiwi history, which was made by many of the team that worked on Eating Media Lunch. The Unauthorised History plumbs TV and history archives to poke fun at the pretence of the past (and present). This episode examines artefacts to do with sex and Aotearoa. With tongue planted in check (and in other places) Wells revisits everything from pole-dancing in the "hellhole of the Pacific" — colonial-era Russell — to randy Hutt Valley teenagers "getting laid" in the 1950s.
Wayne Anderson is a man out of time. His three and a half octave voice and undying devotion to the “evergreens” of popular music (Elvis, Engelbert and Tom) should surely have seen him in Vegas by now. However, despite the best attempts of hapless manager Orlando, Wayne’s star has never ascended higher than the rather less lucrative Manurewa rest home circuit. The cameras follow him in his quest for a show business career – along with the perfect perm and hot pie – in a series where the boundary between fact and fiction is as elusive as that big break.
Gliding On meets Borat, as a man pretending to be a fisherman from a fictional town heads to Wellington to find out if any government agency will take action about fish he says are dying in his river. Clad in jacket and tie and walk shorts and walk socks, he traipses the corridors of power which are artfully shot to look like a hell from which he will never escape. His attempts to find someone who can take action yield only a succession of impotent bureaucrats who participate happily but only to explain, often at length, why they can’t actually do anything.
Designer Garnet Nelson has a distinctive attitude to fashion for the rural sector, showcased in a range of clothes combining style and practicality — although the after five combinations may be a step too far. This might be one of the celebrated Country Calendar spoof episodes, but the buy-in from models who could only be farmers and not actors is a sight to behold. And the fashion tips don't end there. Reporter (and long time Country Calendar producer) Frank Torley adds his own sartorial note with an unfeasibly long shirt collar that has a mind of its own.
In this highlights special culled from the first four years of Eating Media Lunch, presenter Jeremy Wells manages to keep a straight face while mercilessly satirising all manner of mainstream media. Leaping channels and barriers of taste, the episode shows the fine line between send-up and target. The 'Worst of EML' tests the patience of talkback radio hosts and goes behind the demise of celebrity merino Shrek; plus terrorist blooper reels, Destiny Church protests, Target hijinks, and our first indigenous porno flick (you have been warned: not suitable for children).
A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery. Gooey Duck — a shellfish with reputed aphrodisiac qualities — has appeared off Ureroa. The quota is owned by a local couple but the rest of the town, big business, the government and the local iwi all have their own ideas. Smith's involvement gets complicated when he innocently consumes the mollusk while watching Prime Minister Jenny Shipley on TV. Writer Stephen Sinclair satiries television, celebrity, gender, politicis, small town New Zealand and penises.
When Forgotten Silver — the story of pioneer filmmaker Colin McKenzie — unspooled on 29th October 1995, in a Sunday TV slot normally reserved for drama, many believed the fable was fact. Controversy ensued as a public reacted (indignant, thrilled) to having the wool pulled over their eyes. Costa Botes, who originated the mockumentary, later made this doco, looking at the construction of McKenzie's epic, tragic, yet increasingly ridiculous story. He interviews co-conspirator Peter Jackson and other pranksters, and they muse on the film's priceless impact.
Christchurch policeman Stefen Harris launched his film career with this feature-length adaptation of his own book The Waikikamukau Conspiracy, about a small town Māori land claim. When drama funding couldn’t be secured, it was shot as a low budget mockumentary in just six days in South Canterbury. Jim Moriarty manages to be endearing in his determination to regain his people’s land at any cost, while David McPhail and Mark Hadlow enthusiastically lampoon the judicial system. The film won Best Digital Feature at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
Former presenter Derek Payne returns to front the finale of this first (NZBC) run of the Otago-Southland local news show. A report on strippers aside, the emphasis in this ‘best of’ series cull is on (often Pythonesque) humour. Highlights include Kevin Ramshaw’s Sam Spade-style private eye hunting Noddy, Payne walking a famous imaginary dog, a search for news in Invercargill and a reporters’ bloopers reel. An era when newsroom staff were learning their medium in the public eye is evoked, and the opening weather report is a glorious look back at TV’s lo-tech past.
These six ‘webisodes’ are an online mockumentary series about a David vs Goliath legal battle won by the titular Tararua vale against BPC, a Belgian petrochemical giant. Sid (played by Byron Coll of “Nonu, Nonu, Nonu. Boom!” Mastercard ad fame) has received Woodville Arts Council funding to document the (fictional) landmark case; a scenario that provides fodder for the makers to poke the cow prod at contemporary Kiwi life and NIMBY concerns. Funded by NZ On Air’s digital media fund Ignite, Woodville was selected for indie film festival Raindance in 2013.